The difference between terrorism and a holy war

I have no issues with using lethal force against jihadis as they are at war with the West and when you are at war different rules apply.

[…] The new defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, has provoked a virulent onslaught

[…] His offence was to state that Britons who have fought for Islamic State abroad were rightly being hunted down and killed to ensure they never returned to Britain from Libya, Iraq or Syria, the breeding grounds for plotting attacks in the UK. ?A dead terrorist can?t cause any harm to Britain,? he said.

How true and I would add, the only good terrorist is a dead one.

Outrage! Although the Foreign Office minister Rory Stewart recently said something very similar, unnamed colleagues branded Williamson ?childish? and said he should ?stick to pet rescue?.

Lord Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, said: ?It simply will not be lawful in all circumstances to kill jihadis?. The Labour MP and former paratrooper Dan Jarvis said Williamson?s comments constituted ?so radical a departure from all that we should value, and the way we should conduct ourselves, it is hard even to countenance?.

How do we define what a terrorist is though?

[…] Terrorists are people such as the IRA, committing acts of violence for limited political ends. Terrorism like this is treated as a crime and dealt with through arrest, prosecution and imprisonment.

By contrast, war involves identifying an enemy to be killed and thus defeated. War is conventionally defined as taking place between states and involving soldiers wearing the uniform of their country.

Jihadis are non-state actors and don?t wear any uniform. So their violence is branded terrorism. But this is not accurate.

By their own account, jihadis are engaged in holy war. We should accept this definition of their activities because it is true. Holy war is not a figure of speech. It is a type of warfare.

The definition of war is complex. What is generally accepted, though, is that war has a strategic aim whereas terrorism is tactical. To put it another way, terrorism uses violence in order to intimidate or coerce a government or institution to deliver an objective. War identifies an enemy to be destroyed altogether.

The jihadis aren?t killing western civilians because they want to force British or western governments to change their policies. They want to kill British and western people as ?unbelievers? and wipe out western civilisation altogether.

The IRA used the murder of British soldiers and civilians to try to achieve a united Ireland. If their aim had been instead to murder as many British people as possible and replace British democracy by a global Catholic theocracy ? and were seeking out weapons of mass destruction to do so ? Britain would have viewed them as waging war, not committing terrorist crimes.

Accordingly, it would have sent in the military not to help the civil power enforce the criminal law, as happened in Northern Ireland, but to kill those warmongers first.

What matters is intention. Jihadis don?t kill the innocent as a means to a political end. Killing the innocent is the political end. Terrorism is the method. But the aim of this holy war could not be more strategic.

The security service estimates that about 850 people from Britain have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight with Islamist groups and more than 100 have been killed. The defence secretary?s critics say Britain should wait until the rest return to the UK and then arrest them.

If people go off to fight with Isis, however, they have chosen to join the jihad against the West. Once signed up, they inescapably become enemy combatants in that war against the free world and equally inescapably become legitimate targets in its defence.

Given the jihadis? aims and methods, the risk of any of them slipping through the net is one no prudent country should take. Yet according to the head of MI5, Andrew Parker, about half of these recruits have returned to Britain. Does this suggest this country is supremely civilised or suicidally stupid?

And what about the threat they may pose to Britain (or elsewhere) without returning? Mohammed Emwazi aka ?Jihadi John? and Sally Jones were killed by coalition strikes. They were Britons recruiting British Muslims for Isis and plotting attacks on Britain. Are Williamson?s critics really suggesting they were the victims of ?extra-judicial killings??

Britain has taken part in numerous coalition strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. It regards these as theatres of war and has accordingly killed many jihadis there. Why should exceptions be made for those who happen to come from Britain?

The key point is that killing terrorists becomes permissible only when it is just not possible to halt their murderous trajectory by other means. Last January the attorney general, Jeremy Wright, laid out the legal principles that should govern actions against foreign fighters.

He said lethal force could be used where there was no other way of preventing attacks inspired or plotted by non-state actors and which might be assembled very fast.

The lethal use of force should always be a last resort. Sometimes, though, there?s no alternative if the innocent are to be protected. The defence secretary?s accusers are in danger of protecting the killers of the innocent instead.

It is pretty simple. If British citizens who left the UK to fight a Holy War as jihadis manage to survive and want to return they should be given two choices. One, to stay where they are or two to return and be arrested at the airport and then shot for treason within 24 hours.